The term ‘pulsating game’ is a much overused phrase when talking about football matches. Every now and again you get a match truly deserving of this description and last night’s USL game between Vancouver Whitecaps and Miami FC was certainly one of those.
Vancouver won 3-2, fought back from going an early goal down, played some delightful passing football and laid siege to the Miami goal for most of the second half. Yet many of the Vancouver faithful left Swangard last night feeling like they had just witnessed a loss.
Despite all of the good things on show, all of the talking points will be about the controversial points of the game, namely the Caps second goal and the THREE sending offs.
Vancouver went into the match on a three game losing streak, whilst third bottom Miami didn’t have their problems to seek either, with only one point from their last five games.
The Caps started the game the livelier of the two sides, with Charles Gbeke giving an indication of what would lie in store by testing Miami keeper Kenny Schoeni twice in the first five minutes.
It was Miami who were to take the first lead of the night though.
With ten minutes on the clock, Miami won a free kick 25 yards out and Zourab Tsiskaridze’s strike forced Jay Nolly into a fine save to tip the ball over. The resultant outswinging corner was met superbly by Tsiskaridze, who lost his marker and the big Georgian headed strongly into the top left hand corner, rooting Nolly to the spot. 1-0 Miami.
Vancouver levelled six minutes later though when Gbeke outjumped three Miami defenders to head home Wes Knight’s long throw from 8 yards out.
Miami had a few breaks but their attempts at goal fell short, in many ways, and Vancouver were always looking the more likely to break the deadlock.
That break came on 34 minutes when Gbeke doubled his, and the Caps, tally in the first controversial moment of what was to become an incident packed game.
Knight played a great ball in from the right and Gbeke and Schoeni challenged for it in the air on the six yard line. The Miami keeper seemed to have the ball in his hands only for the Caps striker to head it out and into the net.
My initial thought was foul by Vancouver, but television replays seem to show minimal contact by Gbeke on the keeper and Schoeni seems to drop the ball into the net himself. All that really mattered was that the referee awarded the goal and Vancouver took a 2-1 lead.
The Miami players were furious and they were lucky to see only Leonardo Inacio Nunes booked for their protestations.
As half time approached, the Caps had some half chances to increase their lead before a flashpoint incident at midfield on 45 minutes.
As Vancouver’s Martin Nash and Miami’s Danny Vasquez squared up in the centre following a tackle, Nunes came out of nowhere to send Nash flying. Nash got booked for the initial fracas and Nunes saw red, reducing the Florida side to ten men and cueing more Miami protests.
Vancouver started off the second half keen to kill off the game and laid siege to the Miami goal, with chance after chance, with Miami having some fine saves from their goalie for keeping them in the game.
Gbeke in particular seemed hungry for his hat trick, throwing himself at everything and in seemingly good spirits, joking and gesturing to the Southside when fortune hadn’t smiled favourably on him.
Vancouver eventually got their third, after 76 minutes, when Marco Reda bundled home a flick on from Gbeke from a Nash corner. It may have been his thigh, it may have been his arm. It was too quick to tell but, again, all that mattered was that it counted!
3-1 Vancouver but what we thought was to be plain sailing lasted 2 minutes, as Miami grabbed a goal back when Walter Ramirez’s free kick crashed of the bar and into the path of Richard Perdomo who threw himself at the ball to head home form 4 yards.
Miami nearly hit a shock equalizer minutes later but Perdomo wasted the fine opportunity.
As Miami pushed forward they were leaving themselves short at the back and Vancouver had a two on one break, but sub Marlon James (making a welcome return from injury) and Gbeke contrived to let Schoeni deal with the danger.
There is no doubting that the Caps forwards could have done better and this seems to have led to the big flashpoint incident moments later with 85 minutes gone.
Full details are still a little unclear but Caps defender Wesley Charles and Gbeke squared up to each other in the middle of the pitch and physical contact was made by both. It appears that Gbeke took offence to comments Charles made to him.
Ref Oliva needed help from his linesman and the result was a red card for Charles and a yellow for Gbeke, although some fans feel it could very easily have been the other way around or two reds. As Charles calmly walked off, the other Caps players had to hold back Gbeke who seemed to want to continue the altercation.
Gbeke was clearly left fuming after the incident and when substituted on the 90 minute mark kicked over a pile of water bottles as he made his way to the bench. Now we’re not talking a small kick here. The bottles went flying.
The referee took exception to this and sent Gbeke off from the sidelines. In all my years of watching football I honestly can’t remember seeing someone getting sent off for something like that.
Gbeke quickly made his way up the tunnel to the dressing room where Charles was and Caps officials soon had to make a quick dash to the area, and it would appear that a further altercation took place between the players.
Vancouver held out for the win but the subdued atmosphere in the Southside for the last few minutes of the game said it all.
After the final whistle the Miami players tried to get to the referee who now had protection from security! Two big women you wouldn’t want to mess with!
The Caps players came to the Southside but were then kept on the pitch for ages as the events of the night hit home.
What the fall out from all of this will be is unclear and the Whitecaps have said that they won’t be making a statement on it until Monday.
It will be hard for Charles and Gbeke to play in the same team again after this barring an amazing reconciliation and much public shamed apologies. It will also be hard for Gbeke to get his team mates respect back and he has publicaly acknowledged that he gives his team mates a hard time verbally on the pitch, which is very noticeable at times.
As the Whitecaps try to prize some of the football loving couch potatoes and Eurosnobs out of their armchairs and in to watching the game live, any casual fan watching the game on TV tonight would have been left wanting to come to the next game immediately.
It’s a shame that the other proceedings overshadowed what was a good Caps performance and what was a promising return to fine form as the Champions League campaign hopefully awaits.
It will certainly be interesting to see what comes out of all this next week.